On August 19, the world marks World Humanitarian Day, celebrating the efforts of those who provide assistance to those who are suffering. In 1958, Israel adopted an official humanitarian aid agenda as a principal element of the country’s international cooperation efforts. Since the 1980s, Israel has also provided humanitarian aid in the wake of natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
Sharing beyond borders
Within a decade of Israel’s founding, the government and its people demonstrated a deep commitment to engage in humanitarian relief efforts and international development programs. In 1958, Israel adopted an official humanitarian aid agenda as a principal element of the country’s international cooperation efforts. Over the years, the country has extended international humanitarian aid assistance to more than 140 countries, even to those who do not maintain diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
Israel’s humanitarian efforts formally began in 1958, with the establishment of MASHAV, as the Foreign Ministry’s Center for International Cooperation, following the first visit of Foreign Minister Golda Meir to Africa. MASHAV assists countries striving to alleviate global problems of hunger, disease and poverty by providing technical training and sharing technology to improve quality of life. In the 1970s, Israel broadened its humanitarian aid agenda by granting safe haven to refugees and foreign nationals in distress – from Vietnam, Bosnia and Kosovo – and more recently from Darfur.
Also, since 1959, MASHAV has been sending Israeli eye-doctors to countries throughout the developing world to treat preventable blindness and ocular disease. The Israeli teams set up "eye camps", bringing with them extensive treatment equipment often unavailable in the country, and perform operations to restore sight, train local staff and often donate medical equipment at the end of their stay.
MASHAV, now Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, is the body responsible for Israel’s official humanitarian assistance program.
In only 54 years, Israel has provided humanitarian aid to over 140 countries:
Albania * Angola * Argentina * Armenia * Azerbaijan * Belarus * Benin * Bolivia * Bosnia & Herzogovina * Bourkina-Fasso * Brazil * Bulgaria * Gurundi * Cambodia * Cameroon * Chad * Chile * China * Columbia * Congo * Costa Rica * Cote d’Ivoire * Cyprus * Czech Republic * Democratic Republic of Congo * Deominican Republic * Ecuador* Egypt * El Salvador * Eritrea * Estonia * Ethiopia * Fiji * Gambia * Georgia * Ghana * Greece * Guatemala * Guinea * Guinea-Bissau * Guyana * Haiti * Honduras * Hungary * India * Indonesia * Jamaica * Jordan * Kazakhstan * Kenya * Kyrgystan * Laos * Latvia * Leshotho * Liberia * Lithuania * Macedonia * Madagascar * Malawi * Malta * Mauritania * Mauritius * Mexico * Micronesia * Moldova * Mongolia * Morocco * Myanmar * Namibia * Nepal * Nicaragua * Nigreia * Palestinian Authority * Panama * Papua New Guinea * Paraguay * Peru * Philippines * Poland * Romania * Russia * Rwanda * Senegal * Seychelles Islands * Singapore * Slovakia * Somalia * South Africa * South Korea * Sri Lanka *Swaziland * Tadjikistan * Tanzania * Thailand * Togo * Tonga * Tunisia * Turkey * Turkmenistan * Uganda * Ukraine * United States * Uruguay * Uzbekistan * Venezuela * Vietnam * Yugosloslavia * Zaire * Zambia * Zimbabwe
Since the 1980s, Israel has also provided humanitarian aid in the wake of natural disasters and terrorist attacks beyond its borders.
Tsunami – January 2005:
Sri Lankan child receives medical treatment
Israel, by tragic circumstance, is possibly the world’s leading expert in dealing with mass casualty situations. Israel has gained vast experience in responding to such situations resulting from war or terror, leading to the development of extremely effective procedures for rapid and effective response in case of emergency. This experience enables Israel to quickly dispatch field hospitals and medical and search and rescue teams to countries in the immediate aftermath of both natural and man-made disasters. In addition, Israel often donates needed food, medicine and supplies in emergency situations, constructs temporary housing and rehabilitates damaged medical facilities where needed.
Among Israel’s emergency relief missions:
The most recent major disaster relief mission was dispatched to Haiti, after the desvastating earthquake in January 2010. An IDF search and rescue team and field hospital were supplemented by relief teams from Israeli NGOs, including ZAKA, IsraAid, F.I.R.S.T and Latet.
The Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004 was one of the worst natural disasters in history. Israel sent 60 tons of aid to Indonesia, which was well-received by a country with the largest Muslim population in the world, and no ties with Israel. The Israeli government also sent 82 tons of relief supplies, including medicine, water, food, blankets, tents, nylon sheeting and electric generators to Sri Lanka. Magen David Adom, Israel’s division of the International Red Cross, dispatched additional urgent medical supplies to hospitals in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo.
Israeli organizations were also involved in providing aid to Pakistan after the November 2005 earthquake in Kashmir. An Israeli NGO, Israeli Flying Aid (IFA) sent a mission to the region and provided thousands of families basic dry food products, blankets, coats, socks, personal clay heating kits and iron sheets to shield temporary shelters from heavy snow.
Major relief efforts in the past include:
- – January 2001
- – January 2001
- – August 1999
- – July 1994
- – August 1999
Israeli humanitarian aid organizations
IsraAID (The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid), founded in Israel in 2001, is an umbrella organization of more than 35 Israeli and Jewish non-governmental organizations and other individuals active in development and relief work around the world and concerned about global issues. IsraAID and its members have provided relief assistance to more than 20 countries including Rwanda, India, Mexico, Congo, Chad, Sudan (Darfur) and Malawi.
The Fast Israeli Rescue and Search Team (FIRST) is an Israeli NGO that sends search and rescue teams to disaster zones around the world. FIRST has also provided relief assistance in Peru, Turkey, India, Mexico, El Salvador, Greece, Armenia and New Guinea, among others
Israeli Flying Aid (IFA), an Israeli NGO, provides life saving aid to people affected by natural and man made disasters worldwide.
Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) is an organization that provides urgent pediatric heart surgery and follow-up care for children from developing countries. SACH was founded in 1995 and has since repaired the hearts of more than 2,100 children from a wide variety of countries including China, Congo, Ecuador, Angola, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Iraq, Jordan, Russia, Sri Lanka and Ukraine as well as to children in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
LATET (Hebrew for "to give") – Israeli Humanitarian Aid is an NGO established in 1996 and devoted to assisting populations in need in Israel and around the world on a universal and equal basis.